The Deerstalker train about to leave Fort William

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The train they call The Deerstalker...

Imagine a train which leaves central London after work and arrives next morning in the glorious West Highlands at the foot of Ben Nevis, the highest mountain in Britain.  Imagine a train where you eat dinner with wine as the train speeds through commuterland at 80mph, then go to bed in your own en suite bedroom, waking next morning to mountains, streams and woods, deer bounding away from the train, a diesel locomotive struggling to haul the sleeping-cars and lounge car up steep gradients and around the curves at 40 mph on the lonely single track to Fort William.  Don't just imagine it, take it.  It's the best train in Britain, the train they call The Deerstalker.  See the video and believe.

Onwards to Mallaig & the Isle of Skye:  From Fort William, take a train to the end of the line at Mallaig, a tiny fishing port from where the CalMac ferry sails to Armadale on the Isle of Skye.  It's the most scenic line in the UK, it includes the Glenfinnan Viaduct of Harry Potter fame.  Or stay in Fort William and climb Ben Nevis, the track up 'the Ben' starts 15 minutes walk from Fort William station.  See the West Highland Line page.

On this page


On the Caledonian Sleeper page

small bullet point  The journey in photos   


small bullet point  What's the train like?   

  small bullet point  How much does it cost?

small bullet point  Watch the video


small bullet point  Timetable

  small bullet point  How to buy tickets

What's the train like?

The trainSee the Caledonian Sleeper page for a complete guide to the Caledonian Sleeper trains between London & Scotland.

The route See map of the UK rail network.  The London to Fort William sleeper runs combined with the London-Aberdeen & London-Inverness sleeping-cars from London Euston to Edinburgh via the West Coast Main Line through Crewe, Preston and Carstairs, although it's occasionally diverted via the East Coast Main Line through York if there's trackwork.  It then has a seats car & club car attached and runs from Edinburgh through Glasgow and Crianlarich to Fort William, a total of 566 miles.

Why the Deerstalker?  In 1995 this wonderful train was very nearly discontinued, and a campaign set out to save it.  Campaigner Hugh Raven recalls, "The name was dreamed up by journalist Jon Prynn (and in a small way, me). Covering the service’s intended demise for The Times, Jon said it needed a colloquial name. ‘Grousemoor express?’ he offered. ‘Nary a grouse now on the West Coast’ I replied. ‘Far more deer…’.  He did the rest."  The train was saved, and today (in my opinion) it's the Best Train in Britain.  And as you watch the deer bound away from the train as it crosses the remote expanses of Rannoch Moor, you'll be glad they saved the Deerstalker...

The journey in photos

London Euston station exterior   London Euston station interior

20:00, Euston station, London.  Commuters are long gone and the last evening intercity trains are leaving London for Birmingham & Manchester.

First class lounge:  If you have a Club, Caledonian Double or accessible sleeper you can use the Caledonian Sleeper lounge on platform 1 with complimentary tea, coffee, soft drinks & biscuits.  Alcoholic drinks & light meals are available at extra cost.  The lounge has free WiFi, desks and charging points.  There are also showers for use after arrival in London southbound.

Boarding the Caledonian Sleeper to Fort William at London Euston

20:30, boarding:  Passengers can board from around 20:30.  Caledonian Sleeper hosts check you in at the entrance to platform 1, one of only two platforms at Euston long enough to handle the 16-car Caledonian Sleeper trains.  The sleeping-cars to Fort William leave London coupled to cars bound for Aberdeen and Inverness.

Caledonian Double room on the sleeper to Fort William   Club room on the sleeper train to Fort William

Your room:  Caledonian Double rooms (above left) feature a double bed and en suite toilet & shower.  Club rooms (above right) have 2 beds and also feature a private toilet & shower.  Classic rooms are identical to Club rooms, but with only a washbasin, toilets at the end of the corridor.  There are power sockets, USB ports & free WiFi.  See the Caledonian Sleeper page for all the practical information about these sleeper trains to Scotland.

The sleeper to Fort William leaves London

21:15, departure from London:  Right on time, the 16-car Highland sleeper eases out of Euston station, bound for Inverness, Aberdeen and Fort William.

Haggis, tattis n neeps in the club car   The sleeper club car

Head for the club car!  There's no club car in the Fort William portion when it leaves London, but you can use the Aberdeen or Inverness club car in the evening.  Head there sharpish, ideally before departure to find a seat - it gets busy!  There's an extensive menu of hot & cold dishes, snacks, red & white wine, prosecco & champagne, and of course a well-chosen range of premium Scottish whisky.  Above left, a longstanding favourite, haggis, tattis 'n neeps.

Cheese board in the sleeper club car   Glen Garioch whisky on the sleeper to Fort William

After the cheese board, also a popular choice, try one of the whiskies: The Glen Garioch (above right) is superb.

The sleeper passes Stafford, late at night

There's a great atmosphere in the busy club car as the train races north at up to 80 mph.  The friendly and attentive hosts are rushed off their feet, but one by one the passengers head back to their rooms for the night.  Above, passing Stafford just after 11pm.  The evening in the club car has been a blast.

Club room from above on the sleeper to Fort William  

Nighty-night!  The comfy beds come with high-quality bedding.  Above left, a top-down view of my Club room.  Larger photo.

  Taking a shower on the sleeper to Fort William

Good morning!  The train called briefly at Edinburgh Waverley at around 04:30, an unadvertised service stop where the train splits into 3 portions.  The sleeping-cars from London to Fort William have had a club car & seats car attached, they run on to Glasgow and along the Clyde onto the West Highland Line.

Gare Loch

06:30, River Clyde & Gare Loch:  The train runs along the Clyde through Dumbarton & Helensburgh, then along Gare Loch towards Faslane & Garelochhead.

Scottish breakfast on the sleeper to Fort William   Club car at breakfast

Breakfast is served.  Breakfast can be served in your compartment or in the club car at a time you choose.  It's included in the fare if you're in a Club or Caledonian Double room, at extra cost if you're in a Classic room.  The full Scottish breakfast (above left) is only served in the club car, but I highly recommend it as very tasty indeed.

The train passes Loch Long

07:00, Loch Long:  The train now runs along pretty Loch Long and on to Arrochar & Tarbet then Ardlui.

Scenery approaching Crianlarich

07:45, Crianlarich:  Crianlarich is a junction station, change here for the line to Oban.

The sleeper to Fort William about to go around the horseshoe curve

08:05, horseshoe curve:  Between Upper Tyndrum and Bridge of Orchy stations, the railway's builders hadn't the money for a viaduct across the mouth of a valley so they built the line into and around it, under Beinn Dorain (3524 feet high), Beinn a' Chaiseil (2897 feet) & Beinn Odhar (2948 feet).  The best views are on the left hand side when going north.  The bridge visible here is Allt Kinglass Viaduct.

The sleeper to Fort William about to go around the horseshoe curve

Looking back from the other side of the horseshoe curve.

Rannoch Moor

08:20, Rannoch Moor:  The train now crosses the desolate Rannoch Moor, where the railway is 'floated' across the peat bog on layers of turf and brushwood without solid foundations.  And yes, many large deer with antlers were spotted on this trip.

Rannoch station

08:45, Rannoch.  The train pauses at Rannoch to pass the morning ScotRail train from Fort William to Glasgow.

Another shot of Rannoch Moor

After Rannoch the wide treeless expanse of remote Rannoch Moor continues.

Rannoch Moor and distant mountains

Watch for groups of deer bounding away from the train.

The sleeper passes Corrour station

09:00, Corrour, the most remote station in Britain, only reachable by train or along a dirt track.  The station featured in the 1996 film 'Trainspotting'.

Corrour summit

Corrour summit, the highest point of the line at 1,350 feet above sea level.  This sign is on the left hand side soon after leaving Corrour station.

The train passes Loch Treig

09:10, Loch Treig.  The loch views are on the left hand side.

Loch Treig   Dam, Loch Treig

The train runs along the eastern shore of Loch Treig and past the dam at its northern end.

The sleeper train runs along the River Spean

The train follows the River Treig, calls at Tulloch, then follows the River Spean (above).  Views are on the left hand side.

Monessie Gorge sign   Monessie Gorge

09:25, Monessie Gorge:  Between Tulloch & Roy Bridge the train runs along the pretty Monessie Gorge, left hand side.

The sleeper train runs along Monessie Gorge

09:50 Ben Nevis in view.  After leaving Spean Bridge you'll see a mountain range on your left which includes Ben Nevis, the highest mountain in Britain at 4,409 feet or 1,344m.  Its summit is often concealed in cloud.  The foot of the hiking trail up 'the Ben' is only 15 minutes walk from Fort William station.

River   The sleeper train arrived at Fort William

09:57, arrival at Fort William, on time, 566 miles from London.

The sleeper from London arrived at Fort William

Connection for Mallaig:  Shortly after the sleeper's arrival, the Jacobite steam train departs for Mallaig, via the famous Glenfinnan 'Harry Potter' viaduct.  It's a risky connection to make as the Jacobite isn't cheap and the sleeper can be delayed, but on this occasion the connection was made and you can usually buy tickets for the Jacobite from the guard on the day, even if it's shown as sold out online.  You can of course take the much cheaper scheduled Scotrail train to Mallaig, see the West Highland Line page.

Fort William station

Fort William station:  Built in 1975, it's not Scotland's most beautiful station.  The rails used to continue another few hundred yards to Fort William's original castle-like station, sandwiched between the high street and the pier, opposite the Imperial Hotel.  The ugly modern ring-road was built where the rails used to run.

Watch the video:  London to Fort William

This video shows the new Mk5 trains introduced in 2019.  If you'd like to see what the old Mk3 trains used to be like, see this video.

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